William Shakespeare's Macbeth

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The Witches or Weird Sisters play a major role in the brilliant tragedy Macbeth by William Shakespeare. The role of the Weird Sisters represents that equivocal evil in the nature of things which helps to deceive the human will. They are not mere witches although they have some of the powers of witches. Even though they were produced by nature, they share with angels a freedom from limitation of space and time, a power to perceive the causes of things, and to see some distance into human minds (Kermode 1309). The Witches have malicious intentions and prophetic powers that entice Macbeth and captivate his mind. Although they have no power to compel Macbeth, the Witches appeal to Macbeth’s desires, eventually leading him to his tragic end.

The most obvious interpretation of the Witches is to see them as manifestations of evil in the world. They exist to tempt and torment people, to challenge their faith in themselves and their society. The Weird Sisters work on Macbeth by equivocation, that is, by ambiguous promises of some future state. These promises come true, but not in the way that the victim originally believed. The Witches have no power to compel belief, but they can obviously appeal strongly to an already existing inclination to force a person’s will onto events to shape the future to fit deepest desires (Corson 224-229).

At the beginning of Macbeth, there is no interpretation of the meaning of the storm. Dimly the audience is aware of the ongoing war, but Hecate creates an infernal trinity. Lightning, thunder, and rain all whirl into existence the three hideous curses upon humanity, the three Weird Sisters (Walker 146).

1Witch: “When shall we three meet again?

In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

2Witch: When the hurly-burly’s done,

When the battle’s lost and won.

3Witch: That will be ere the set of sun.

1Witch: Where the place?

2Witch: Upon the heath.

3Witch: There to meet with Macbeth.

1Witch: I come, Graymalkin

2Witch: Paddock calls

3Witch: Anon!

All: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”

Hover through the fog and filthy air.”(I.i.1-10).

These creepers of darkness that guide the Witches invoke the evil that eventually destroys Macbeth. Graymalkin, the night-se...

... middle of paper ... come. “That will never be,”(IV.i.93), he replies, as the Witches listen and laugh in silence knowing they have defeated Macbeth by encouraging equivocations.

The Witches are gleeful over their victim whose eyeballs have been seared by what has been shown to him. The First Witch says:

“Come, sisters, cheer we up his sprites,/And show the best of our delights:/ I’ll charm the air to give a sound,/While you perform your antic round,/That this great king may kindly say/Our duties did his welcome pay.”(IV.i.125-130).

This expresses implicitly all that has been set forth in regard to the relations of the Witches to Macbeth. He is the first to welcome them as guest to his bosom, and they do their duty by him as agents of the devil (Corson 242).

Although the witches have no power to compel Macbeth, they appealed to what he has previously desired, eventually leading him to his tragic end. They have originated nothing within him. They have but harped upon what was already evil and stimulated these thoughts into acts (Corson 242). In his last scene, the Witches urge him on by more flattering equivocations, each turning false, luring Macbeth to an evil end.
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